New Vegas Mod Tools
Of course, community members have stepped up to provide tools to make installing, managing, maintaining, and using mods much more efficient. I'll be going over some of the most important tools and utilities for Fallout: New Vegas below, though in most cases you can trace these tools back to at least Oblivion. Fallout Mod Manager, Wrye Flash, BOSS for NV, FNVEdit, and the New Vegas Script Extender will be covered in this post.
Fallout Mod Manager (FOMM)
Fallout Mod Manager, or FOMM, was created by Kaburke and built on the Oblivion Mod Manager by Timeslip. FOMM can actually handle both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas (switched via a selection at launch). The major features of FOMM for the user include mod installation via the "Package Manager," automatic retrieval of information about mods (optional), simple updating of mods to new versions, and of course load order manipulation including automatic sorting using BOSS (more on this below).
If you are even considering using anything beyond a few very simple mods, you should definitely consider making use of the Package Manager. It offers the ability to quickly and easily install mods, and then uninstall them in a few simple clicks if you want. You can see which assets from which mods are overwriting others, and tweak that order if necessary. Once you start getting into the installation of complex mods like gameplay overhauls or weather mods or large quest mods, you'll want FOMM. Of course, using FOMM before you get to the point where you "need" it is an even better idea.
Mod authors can also create .FOMODs that range from basic (quick install) to complex (scripted, configurable installations). FOMM also includes some simple editing tools like TESsnip, a BSA creator and unpacker, and a shader editor.
Wrye Flash is a highly useful mod tool created by valda. Like FOMM Wrye Flash was built upon earlier programs: Wrye Mash and then Wrye Bash, by, well, Wrye. It's a little difficult to adequately explain what Wrye Flash can do. It is an extremely powerful and feature-heavy program that is also complicated at times. It shares a set of features with FOMM, though done differently: mod installation and load order management. The program also includes save management and editing, the ability to change some .ini settings via presets, and some unrelated things like screenshot, private message and "people" management (the latter two for use with the Bethsoft forums).
Perhaps the most important and most well known feature, though, is the Bashed Patch (or now Flashed Patch?). The Bash Patch feature is a set of robust and intelligent merging operations that result in a "Bashed Patch." The reason for this feature is that in the engine used by Oblivion through Fallout: New Vegas, only one mod can directly edit a record (an NPC, an object, a list, a script) at a time, with some exceptions. A mod that alters an NPC's face could block a mod that alters that NPC's inventory, or the other way around. With a Bashed Patch, you can merge both the facial alterations and the inventory changes into the patch, allowing both mods to make their intended changes.
The patch includes options to "import" changes to actors, cells, factions, graphics, inventory, NPC faces, names, relations, scripts, sounds, stats, and more. The patch can also deal similarly with leveled lists and FormID lists. There are also features to allow the merging in of entire "patch" mods allowing them to be deactivated and the editing of global variables and game settings via the patch (which can also eliminate the need for some simple mods).
Like with FOMM, you should definitely be using Wrye Flash if you intend to seriously mod Fallout: New Vegas. Once you start getting into the realm of conflicting mods, the Bashed Patch will be essential. You do have to be careful with trying to use both FOMM and Wrye Flash's mod installation and load order tools together. You may wish to just pick tool for that purpose, and stick with it.
BOSS for NV
BOSS for NV is an automated load order sorting program, again based on an older Oblivion program. BOSS actually stands for "Better Oblivion Sorting Software." The program works by checking your load order against a "masterlist" created by some developers with input from the community, and then automatically adjusting your load order to match that list. The New Vegas list is currently being developed by Loucifer, SpaceOden, and Valda.
At its most simple, you simply run the program and your load order is adjusted. Of course there are additional options for customizing the masterlist, but I won't get into that here. You should know that the masterlist will likely never be perfect, but it isn't supposed to be and really can't be with the constant influx of new mods. BOSS should be used as a starting point; after running it you should still review your load order manually.
BOSS can also never replace your own load order knowledge completely, but again it isn't supposed to. Perhaps you want a mod to overwrite another in the opposite way from the general consensus, for example. Don't be afraid to exercise your own judgment after running BOSS.
As I mentioned before, BOSS can be run from within FOMM. Look in the "Load Order" menu. Finally, don't forget to make sure your masterlist.txt is always the most current version, as it is frequently updated.
FNVEdit is different from the previous three tools, as it is primarily designed for mod authors, not mod users. FNVEdit is a text-based editor of .ESMs and .ESPs created by ElminsterAU (originally in Oblivion, again, as TES4Edit). For mod authors there is a lot of functionality to make use of. I recommend that mod users look into the tool as well, though. FNVEdit can be extremely helpful in detecting, analyzing, and fixing (or avoiding) conflicts, or even just errors within mods such as dirty or phantom edits, duplicate references, etc.
Be aware though that FNVEdit is quite complex and not very well documented internally. Make sure you know what you're doing before you do it. Reading Miaximus and JustinOther's FNVEdit Training Manual is highly recommended.
New Vegas Script Extender
The New Vegas Script Extender by ianpatt, behippo, and scruggsywuggsy the ferret is both an extension to allow modders to use new and potentially more advanced scripting functions, and a loader required by users using mods made with those new functions. Installation is easy, and launching with NVSE is even easier. Just follow the directions. As a user, there isn't really a reason to use NVSE until you find a mod you want that requires it, but you'll probably find one eventually.
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